The NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, affectionately named “March Madness,” wrapped up recently with the Arizona Wildcats falling short to the national champions: the Stanford Cardinal. With a score of 53-54, top overall seed Stanford just barely pulled away to outscore the third seed Arizona to claim the title for the first time in 29 years. Beyond the thrilling game itself, the culmination of another season represented something greater in the world of women’s collegiate athletics. All of the games in the tournament were nationally televised and television ratings from 2019 went up for not only the national title, but for the Final Four, Elite Eight and the Sweet 16 games.
To kick off the first-round, a game between Tennessee and Middle Tennessee gathered the largest audience during any women’s first-round game since 2010. Later came the Sweet 16 games. U-Conn’s matchup with Iowa drew an average audience of 1,563,000. According to ESPN, this large audience was the second-most ever for a women’s Sweet 16 game. In fact, the women’s Sweet 16 was said to be up an extraordinary 67% from 2019. The following Elite Eight game, in which Connecticut defeated Baylor, received 1.7 million average viewers, which was a 32% increase from the 2019 UConn Elite Eight game. For the title, ESPN aired the game between Stanford and Arizona, which earned almost 4.1 million viewers, up a considerable 9% from 2019.
As we take a step back to observe the evolving world of women’s college sports, a recurring name you might hear is Sedona Prince from the Oregon Ducks. Prince, a 6’7” forward has become a dedicated advocate for justice in the form of gender equality. After her TikTok video surfaced and went viral displaying the disparity between the mens’ and womens’ weight rooms in preparation for the basketball tournament, the NCAA found themselves facing national backlash. Prince even claimed, “If you aren’t upset about this problem, then you are a part of it.” According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the “NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt vowed to do better during a Zoom call Friday morning, a day after photos showed the difference between the weight rooms at the two tournaments.” Eventually, the NCAA apologized to the players and coaches and vowed to examine their long-standing issues with gender equity. Gender equity and equality still remains a universal issue outside of the world of college sports but with many individuals stepping up and using their voice, change is underway.
As for Sedona Prince, she is one of 20 collegiate athletes to accept an invitation to the 2021 USA Basketball Women’s AmeriCup Team trials. Her impact on the game will surely continue even beyond her playing days.
While players, coaches, and many other educated advocates continue to engage in the call for equality, the public can also contribute by tuning in to watch more often. Everyday we are observing the growth in popularity of women’s sports, all the more reason to give recognition and credit where it is due.